My Recent Browsing History

The Stories We Tell Ourselves
5 Lessons to Be Learned While Writing a Memoir
Are girls really better at reading than boys or are the tests painting a false picture?
Why each side of the partisan divide thinks the other is living in an alternate reality
Nobody is normal
Sleep deprivation handicaps the brain’s ability to form new memories, study in mice shows
Why Empathy Is Your Most Important Skill (and How to Practice It)

Last Week’s Links

Thriving at Age 70 and Beyond

From Jane E. Brody, long-time health writer for the New York Times:

A recently published book, “70 Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade,” inspired me to take a closer look at how I’m doing as I approach 75 and how I might make the most of the years to come. It would be a good idea for women in my age cohort to do likewise. With a quarter of American women age 65 expected to live into their 90s, there could be quite a few years to think about.

About the book 70 Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade, Brody writes:

What are the most important issues facing these women as they age, and how might society help ease their way into the future? Leading topics the women chose to explore included work and retirement, ageism, coping with functional changes, caretaking, living arrangements, social connections, grandparenting and adjusting to loss and death.

Curtis Sittenfeld: Pride and Prejudice Then & Now

Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest book, Eligible, is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice.

While social rules have changed dramatically in the 200 years since the publication of Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s themes of love, wealth and class are still relevant. Women today can secure financial independence and enjoy intimate relationships without a marriage certificate. Yet societal pressures to marry and bear children persist. And so does the allure of “a single man in possession of a good fortune.”

Men Have Book Clubs, Too

Book clubs have a reputation as something women do together, but this article focuses on an all-male group in Marin County, CA:

The Man Book Club is going into its ninth year. It has 16 members, a number of whom are lawyers and engineers in their mid–50s. Each month, the host must prepare a meal appropriate to the book under discussion.

There’s also information on other all-male book groups around the country.

What You Really Lose When You Lose Perspective

Our perspective is how we perceive people, situations, ideas, etc. It’s informed by our personal experience, which makes it as unique as anything could be. Perspective shapes our life by affecting our choices. But the minute our minds become steeped in worry, perspective goes out of the window. We forget about our triumphs. We stop being optimistic as fear takes the wheel.

Sarah Newman explains how fear can cause us to lose sight of all the wisdom we’ve accrued over our lives.

Meg Rosoff on Coming of Age

Coming of age is such a common topic for fiction that this type of novel has its own name: Bildungsroman. These novels focus on the psychological growth of the main character from youth into adulthood.

Here novelist Meg Rosoff discusses these coming-of-age novels:

  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Henry IV Part I by Shakespeare
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Older women more likely to be overprescribed inappropriate drugs: Study

A recent research study from the University of British Columbia found that:

Older women are nearly 25 percent more likely than men to be over-prescribed or inappropriately prescribed drugs, with a new study pointing to social dynamics as the explanation for the discrepancy.

When authors’ prejudices ruin their books

This is a common question among avid readers: Should authors’ prejudices affect our reactions to their books?

In this article Imogen Russell Williams asks:

The unsavoury attitudes found in novels from writers such as GK Chesterton and Susan Coolidge have ruined some of the fiction I loved most as a child. But where do you draw the line when you return to tainted classics?

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Books That I Finished in February

In an effort to reach my reading goal of 40 books this year, I’m going to start keeping track here of the books I finish each month. Although I keep this information in a database program, it will be easier for me to see if I make each month’s quota.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Recommended

lucy bartonMany years later, first-person narrator Lucy Barton recalls the time her mother visited her in the hospital. Lucy spent nine weeks hospitalized after an appendectomy because of a fever the doctor couldn’t figure out and couldn’t eliminate. Up until that time Lucy had had little contact with her mother since leaving home as a young woman.

Her mother stays for five days, during which the two women gossip about the lives of several people in Lucy’s small, rural hometown. These stories provide a round-about way of discussing what life is all about and how people treat each other. Lucy never does confront her mother with the question she most needs an answer to—why her mother allowed some unspecified “thing” (suggestions of physical and/or sexual abuse)—happen. Yet before her mother unceremoniously leaves to return home, Lucy has come to terms with the insatiable desire for a mother’s love and the fragile nature of memory.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Highly Recommended

house-of-mirthThis was the February selection of my in-person classics book club. Published in 1905, it was Wharton’s first novel. It portrays New York high-society life at the turn of the twentieth century.

The novel tells the story of beautiful Lily Bart. At age 29, 11 years after she made her debut into society, Lily is well past the time when she should have found a suitable, meaning rich, husband. Born into society but forced to its margins by her father’s financial ruin, Lily must find a husband to provide the dresses, jewels, houses, prestige, and power she needs to maintain her place in society.

A life outside of the social circuit is something Lily cannot even consider. As her finances dwindle, so do her opportunities and her reputation. This novel deftly portrays the lives of people for whom appearance is everything, and the fate of people, like Lily, who are unable to play the game successfully.

Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Connor

writing down your soulAnyone interested in journal writing will appreciate Janet Connor’s story of how, at the darkest point of her life, she discovered a way to tap into her own inner strength through writing.

Although her practice involves writing in a journal, she insists that it differs from standard journal writing because of these four characteristics: intention, purpose, process, and commitment. Connor mines the scientific literature of mind-body medicine to explain how writing that combines these four elements can put us in touch with our own inner wisdom by shifting our consciousness and realigning the brain’s neural pathways. She then lays out a four-step approach for accessing that wisdom.

I felt that the book contained much repetition and padding. Nonetheless, it does offer detailed instructions—even though perhaps, in places, too detailed—for anyone interested in giving Connor’s system a try.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Highly Recommended

a-little-lifeThis big-hearted book contains so much humanity that I’m going to be thinking about it for a while before attempting to write a review. It’s one of the most affecting books I’ve ever read. As much as I love literature, I can’t remember the last time a book actually brought me to tears.

If you’re going to read only one novel this year, make it this one. It’s long at 800+ pages, but spend the time to read it slowly and savor it.

Slow Reading by John Miedema

slow readingMiedema put this book together from research for a graduate course in library and information science. He defines slow reading as a voluntary practice done to increase enjoyment and comprehension of a text, a process that some people describe as “getting lost in a book.”

Miedema is discussing the reading of fiction here. Here are a few quotations:

“A fictional work provides a sand box for imagining other identities and choices”(p. 56).

“Children can use fiction as a testing ground for their future selves. Is there any reason to stop this process when we reach adulthood? It is sad and a bit creepy to watch those adults who cease to imagine. It is as if their inner landscape is withering” (p. 57).

”Slow readers have a particular capacity to open up to new ideas, and allow the sense of self to be transformed” (p. 62).

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Year-to date total of books read: 7

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

3 Blogs I’ve Loved Recently

Thanks to a recent WordPress Daily Prompt for today’s post:

Give some love to three blog posts you’ve read and loved in the past week, and tell us why they’re worth reading.

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(1) SAGA SATURDAY I

This post was my introduction to AbbieLu’s site Cafe Book Bean. In this post she defines what a saga is, then lists some of her favorite ones:

  • Gone with the Wind
  • Far and Away
  • East of Eden
  • The Thorn Birds

This post made me want to turn to my TBR shelves and grab a huge book to sink into. (Alas, I’ll have to wait until after January 1st to so indulge myself.) Overall, I love AbbieLu’s enthusiasm about books.

(2) #48: The Kings of Crime – II: Jim Thompson, the King of Clubs 

On The Invisible Event, an unnamed Invisible Blogger writes about classic crime fiction.

This post particularly attracted me because one of the many books on my TBR shelves is Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me. That book, and hence this blog post as well, are good fits for my interest in Literature & Psychology.

(3) ALL YOU ZOMBIES, ROBERT HEINLEIN

I loved finding this blog post by Marilyn Armstrong because it, too, relates to Literature & Psychology. Like Marilyn, I find the concept of time travel fascinating, and I did not know about the book she discusses here, Robert A. Heinlein’s All You Zombies.

I hope I’ll be able to find a copy of this book!